Downing Street has denounced the “witch-hunt” against Conservative politicians accused of sex abuse, after David Cameron was subjected to an extraordinary ambush on morning television.
Philip Schofield shows the supposed list to David Cameron on This Morning
Appearing on ITV for a public relations set-piece about a new dementia policy, the Prime Minister was handed a list of supposed paedophile suspects on air by presenter Phillip Schofield. A shocked Mr Cameron criticised Schofield for plucking the names from the internet.
ITV was reported to the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.
Schofield apologised after it emerged that he had “misjudged the camera angle” and the names of several former senior Tory politicians were visible on the card which he thrust into the hands of the Prime Minister before an audience of around 1.2m.
“You know the names on that piece of paper,” the presenter of This Morning told the Prime Minister. “Will you be speaking to those people?”
Schofield claimed to have found the names of the Conservative Party figures in “three minutes” during a “cursory glance at the internet” for details of a scandal relating to abuse at children's homes in Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mr Cameron took the card and said: “I've heard all sorts of names being bandied around and what then tends to happen is, of course, everyone sits around and speculates about people. Some of whom are alive, some of whom are dead.
“There is a danger if we are not careful that this can turn into a sort of witch-hunt, particularly about people who are gay, and I'm worried about the sort of thing you are doing right now, taking a list of names off the internet.”
After the show, Downing Street reacted with anger. “This silly stunt has resulted in people's names being put out there. They will want to vigorously defend themselves,” said a source at No 10.
The broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby was scornful of Schofield's actions. “How cretinous can you get — giving a list of online names to the PM as though they were evidence,” he said, adding that it “makes a mockery of our trade”.
Tory MPs expressed outrage at the treatment of party colleagues and at the way Mr Cameron had been ambushed.
“The Prime Minister has taken serious action on child abuse allegations. He is also concerned about a separate issue where people are facing an internet witch-hunt. It's important allegations are handled properly — and people's reputations are not unnecessarily smeared. If they have got allegations, if they have evidence, they should hand it to the police. We should not have people throwing allegations around and trial by Twitter.”
— Downing Street